Urban sprawl is a fact of life in Southern California. The cost of
land, the desire (or financial necessity) of many for a suburban or
rural lifestyle, and the topography are all factors in the decision
to build in areas prone to fire. Smart? No. But people will
continue to do so despite the fact that all of SoCal is subject to
severe risk of fire - not to mention earthquakes. The other
alternative is to live elsewhere. We live in the old part of the
City in the core, so we have little vegetation to worry about, but in
high winds, the palm trees lining our streets would catch fire. My
house was built in 1904, and obviously is not at all fire-resistant.
The destruction affected homes built on hills, the flatlands, grassy
areas, and wooded areas. The combination of single digit relative
humidity, high heat, high velocity winds (70 mph gusts), and what
will undoubtedly be determined to be multiple instances of arson,
virtually assured rapid propagation of the fires statewide. People
of all socio-economic circumstances were affected, from migrant farm
workers to captains of industry.
One difficulty is that some homeowners did not heed the warnings of
fire officials to keep the areas around their homes cleared of brush
and to plant fire-resistant decorative vegetation. Something that is
entirely within their control.
New homes here tend to be built with stucco exteriors and tile roofs,
which reduces their susceptibility to fire damage, but with the kind
of firestorm conditions that existed on Monday and Tuesday, none of
this mattered much.
Thankfully, having learned lessons from the 2003 Cedar Creek Fire
(which burned over 2,300 homes) and Hurricane Katrina, the response
of the fire agencies was swift and well-coordinated this time
around. The evacuation of approximately 500,000 people and some
30,000 horses (not to mention all of the other animals that people
keep) went well, and the shelters received plenty of donations in
short order (so many that donors are being turned away). Hotels cut
their rates by 75% for evacuees.
On Oct 24, 2007, at 6:49 PM, Cliff. Johnston wrote:
For the past 300 years that we know of, those hills have burned off
every three years. One would think that people would smarten up
build there. It's difficult for me to have too much sympathy.
like building on a flood plain and then complaining that one gets
by floods...or am I missing something somewhere???
"May the best you've ever seen,
Be the worst you'll ever see;"
from A Scots Toast by Allan Ramsay
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